Albrecht Muth, the man charged with the 2011 death of his 91-year-old wife, Viola Herms Drath, on Thursday was denied the right to represent himself at trial. Judge Russell Canan denied the request due to Muth’s inability to attend court hearings because of medical conditions he endures from a nine month self-induced fast.
“If you elect to stop the fast, it is my intention to let you represent yourself,” Judge Canan said to Muth, who entered his appearance by telephone. “If you elect not to end this fast the court would proceed to trial without you present.”
According to court documents, Muth sent a handwritten letter to the court on October 2 stating that despite what he calls a “religious fast,” he is able and ready to stand trial. In the letter Muth also requests to represent himself stating that his defense attorneys “consistently undercut my defense.”
“They do not act or speak on my behalf,” Muth’s letter states. “I distance myself from the defense strategy they are pursuing.”
Muth, 49, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Drath who was found on August 12, 2011 beaten and strangled in her Georgetown home. Muth was arrested four days later and has since lied about his military service, and has blamed the death of Drath on Iranian agents.
In December 2012 Muth was found competent to stand trial, but has since refused to eat or drink regularly and has remained in what doctors call a “self-induced starvation.” Court documents state in March Judge Canan urged Muth to end his fast, stating Muth would waive his right to be physically present in court if the fast did not end.
Muth’s fast has not stopped and he has since been held at United Medical Center for further observations.
Dana Page, Muth’s defense attorney, said Thursday that according to his doctor, Muth can not move, stand, or sit up, describing Muth’s condition as “critical.” Prosecutors claim that Muth’s doctors advised them that Muth is currently not physically capable to stand trial, unless he stops fasting and is given two weeks to rehabilitate.
“You are barring me from attending court to represent myself,” Muth said over the phone. “You want to deny me the right to call General Petraeus as a witness.”
The case is scheduled for a status hearing on October 31.